Samsung’s A series lineup which is the company’s mid-premium smartphone category has always seen a number of features trickle down from its flagship Galaxy S and Note series. This year though Samsung seems to have finally done a few things differently and given the mid-ranged flagship space some competition.
The 2017 Galaxy A7 has been given a complete makeover for 2018, to a point that it has even seen a name change. The Galaxy A8 Plus (2018) was announced by Samsung India at a familiar price point of Rs 32,990. While that price puts the A8 Plus directly into OnePlus 5T and the Huawei Honor View 10 territory, the Korean giant has thrown in a number of features to make it a more compelling buy for most who would have thought otherwise.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 Plus (2018) not only features a completely fresh appearance and design, it brings a number of features that we earlier saw in Samsung’s 2017 flagships. In my short handling and fidgeting around with the Galaxy A8 Plus, it surely feels like Samsung has attempted to make the A8 Plus feel like a affordable flagship rather than a premium mid-ranged smartphone.
Build and Design
Similar to last year’s Galaxy A7, the Galaxy A8 Plus comes with a sandwiched glass and metal design which is characteristic of the company’s premium range of devices. What has changed though is the inclusion of the company’s infinity edge display which gives the phone a very different look and feel than its predecessor.
The smartphone looks stunning at first glance and resembles the Galaxy Note 8 in many ways. Weighing 191 grams, the A8 Plus is cool to touch and feels every bit like a premium smartphone with a 6-inch display. On the front sits a layer of 2.5D glass while the back is adorned by a 3D curved glass pane with a cutout for the camera, LED flash and the fingerprint scanner (which is thankfully placed in the centre).
On the left we have a SIM slot and the volume rocker, while on the top we find another SIM card and microSD card slot. Towards the right side of the handset, we get the power button and surprisingly the speaker grille finds its place right above the power button. Though the positioning of the speaker grille is a little odd, the Galaxy A7 also had a similar positioning. The finish on the device is great and it is IP68 water and dust resistant, a feature which is not very common at this price point.
The Galaxy A8 Plus comes with a 6-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED display and is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 7885 chipset along with a Mali G71 graphics processing unit to handle graphic-intensive work. The variant launched in India comes with a massive 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage.
It also features a 16 MP camera on the back which has an aperture f/1.7 and PDAF (phase detection autofocus) and an LED flash. On the front it gets a dual-camera lens setup with one being a 16 MP sensor, while the other being an 8 MP sensor. Both sensors have an aperture of f/1.9. Video shooting capabilities are however capped at 1080p at 30fps on both front and rear cameras.
The A8 Plus also features a 3500mAh non-removable Li-ion battery which is smaller than last year’s A7 but should not be an issue for most. The battery can also be topped up quickly thanks to the inclusion of Samsung’s Adaptive fast charging.
The A8 Plus also has a face recognition software built in which was quite fast in my time with the phone. On the connectivity end, the phone includes Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.
The Samsung Galaxy A8 Plus (2018) packs a 6-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Edge display which has an aspect ration of 18.5:9 ratio and a resolution of 1080 x 2220p . The slim borders on the display ensure an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 75.5 percent.
In my short time with the phone, colours seemed vibrant thanks to the Super AMOLED panel and were more or less neutral in tone. I was using the phone under direct sunlight and did not have any issues in viewing text on the screen. Samsung has also continued to feature its Always On display technology on its A series lineup which is an added bonus.
The display does come with Corning Gorilla Glass protection which should be able to withstand a few small bumps. Samsung does bundle a plastic shell-like cover as well to have you covered if you are a little clumsy with the device.
RAM, Chipset and storage
The Galaxy A8 Plus is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 7885 chipset which houses an octa-core processor along with a Mali G71 graphics processing unit to handle graphic-intensive work. The chipset comprises of six lower powered Cortex A53 cores and two higher powered Cortex A72 cores for more intensive tasks.
The variant launched in India comes with a massive 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. This essentially means that Samsung has doubled both the RAM and storage in the phone this year. This should result in better multitasking and a smooth multi-window experience.
The phone by default comes with a usable space of 52 GB out of the total 64 GB but that is expandable up to 256 GB thanks to the addition of a microSD card slot.
Software and OS
Samsung is yet to release Android Oreo and the Galaxy A8 Plus comes with Android Nougat 7.1.1 with Samsung’s Experience operating system. This would be a bit of a disappointment for most but the company does pack in the December Android security patch which is a slight consolation.
The operating system otherwise remains the same if you’ve used any Samsung device over the past year. There is no app drawer and swiping left takes you to Bixby.
There are some preloaded apps on the A8 Plus such as Facebook app, Opera Max and a number of Microsoft apps like Word, PowerPoint and Excel. These apps can't be uninstalled, which is disappointing.
The highlight of the Galaxy A8 Plus is its dual front-facing camera setup. This includes a 16 MP sensor and another 8 MP sensor, both with an aperture of f/1.9. Samsung has brought its Live Focus feature to the A8 Plus which we saw debut on the Galaxy Note 8.
The Galaxy A8 Plus has a 16 MP primary rear-facing camera with an aperture of f/1.7. It features a phase detection auto-focusing system and an LED flash. Samsung says that the camera here does not shy away from low light shots which we will have to test out during our review.
The camera interface is simple and user friendly with right swipe enabling filters and a left swipe taking you to the different camera modes, including a PRO mode for manual control. I was unable to put the camera through it’s paces during my short time but quick shots returns pleasing images in well lit conditions. This was true for shots in artificial lighting conditions as well.
With the launch of the Galaxy A8 Plus at such a compelling price, Samsung has not only upped its A series lineup from falling behind budget flagships but is also sending a message to it competitors. Instead of throwing in incremental changes to a refreshed Galaxy A7, the A8 Plus sees a bunch of features that users loved in 2017, make it way to what is Samsung’s first smartphone launch of 2018.
The addition of its Infinity Display technology and throwing in a live focus mode for selfies, the A8 Plus seems to pack a punch in all the key areas.
Whether is really does so and gives the likes of OnePlus and Honor a good fight is something we need to find out in our comprehensive review of the Samsung Galaxy A8 Plus.